Dōtonbori Canal: Failed New Year’s Countdown

“Hi Sir, have fun and enjoy the New Year’s Eve”, the friendly receptionist with glasses managed to guess my intentions when I was about to leave the lobby of Hotel Kaga.

“Hi, you know that….Hahaha….You too, Sir. See you”, I lightly joked.

“See you, Sir”, the receptionist was still smiling.

I started walking on street with the ambient temperature near zero degrees Celsius. My face froze as I followed my swing of steps towards Dobutsuen-mae Station. For the third time I passed Saka-suji Avenue.

“Tonight there will be a lot of drunk people on the streets”, I thought reminding my logic to continue to be careful even though Japan is a safe country.

My Enjoy Eco Card was still effective until that night to explore underground alleys of Osaka City. Now I was driving with Osaka Metro Midosuji Line carriage to Namba Station. I purposely put Dōtonbori Canal as my last destination in Osaka City and I cleverly placed it during New Year’s Eve celebrations.

“Surely there will be lively”, I excitedly thought.

The train I was in was full. Some of them were not Japanese faces. Surely they were travelers who intended a same thing as me, enjoying New Year’s Eve. My journey to Namba Station went very quickly because from Dobutsuen-mae Station there wasn’t a single station which I passed. I would be there in ten minutes.

Exiting the gates of Namba Station, I walked along Mido-suji Avenue. Keep heading north. My estimate was that it would only take ten minutes to reach Dōtonbori Canal. But it was been twenty minutes I still haven’t arrived.

“Wow …. I must have strayed”, my face began to wry.

I ventured to ask a traffic policeman who seemed to be on guard on a side of sidewalk.

“Sir, do you know where is this place?”, I opened my phone and showed a neon Glico board with a picture of famous running man.

He kindly smiled and nodded while joking excitedly “Oh…There….There”.

“Thank you very much, Sir”, I waved as I walked away from him.

“You ale welcome”, the policeman looked around again.

Ten minutes of retracing the path I had taken earlier, I saw several groups of European tourists heading in a direction. I was sure that was where I was headed. I followed that group of tourists. Sure enough, they were also headed for Dōtonbori Canal.

I was at Dōtonbori Canal.
Glico neon sign with a running man.
Famous landmark in Osaka.

The Dōtonbori Canal at ten o’clock was already lively. The body of canal was filled with tourists, while restaurants and bars seemed to be full. Rich tourists would prefer to wait for New Year’s Eve from restaurants and bars which offer warm air. But I decided to wait for it at the bank of canal, wandering around here and there, trying to enjoy the atmosphere even though I was distracted by freezing air of Osaka.

An hour passed as I walked along each side of canal, then I took my place under the bridge, hoping to find some warm air. But in vain, the air had fallen below zero degrees Celsius. When I couldn’t stand the freezing air, I rushed to a Takoyaki stall. I deliberately queued, waited for order, and ate it for a long time in front of stall to get exposure to warm air which gushed from stall’s stove.

Clinging to the stove for warmth.

Almost half an hour I took advantage of that situation to manipulate cold temperature. Until finally I kicked myself out because the queue of buyers started to get crowded. I returned to the canal half an hour before New Year’s countdown.

As I struggled back against the cold on a side of the canal, I heard faintly familiar language and accents.

“Ngenteni kene wae cah, ra sah adoh adoh (just waiting here, bro, not too far)” a fainty setence was heard, it was Javanese Language.

I looked back, four men and two of them with long hair were sitting on the side of canal, holding a large bottle of alcohol. It was indeed an effective way of fighting the cold. It reminded me of a alcoholic drink I had because I bought the wrong one at Narita International Airpot on other day. But I haven’t given up, I won’t drink it.

I continued to endure the growing cold. My hands started to go numb. But I tried to stay calm. Until finally five minutes before the countdown arrived. Tourists began pouring in along the sides of canal, restaurants and bars abandoned. Everyone hoped there would be an elegant fireworks display. Until the time came, the count really began.

“Tennnn….Nineeee….Eightttt….”, the count was getting louder

“Threeee…..Twoooo….Oneeee…..Happyyyy Newwww Yeearrrr”, but everyone felt silent for three seconds.

The atmosphere of Dotonbori Canal remain quiet, nothing special. Fifteen minutes later it was still the same, quiet.

“Ah, failed miserably”, I was getting annoyed.

Other tourists began too complain. There would be no fireworks display. Until finally ten young Japanese took the initiative to acquire the atmosphere by climbing bridge railing. They took off their clothes and left their underwear in freezing cold. Then one of them started screaming.

“Threeee….Twoooo….Oneeee”, while swerving jumping like a beautiful jumper with their head plunged into the water first.

“Byurrrrr…”

Then the same behavior began to be carried out by their friend who was ready and standing on bridge railing. Counting to three countdowns, his turn jumped into the water. And the show stopped until the tenth person. At least what they did could cure the disappointment of all visitors to Dōtonbori Canal.

The diving show was over.

By one o’clock in the morning. The air which initially felt warmer because of the crowd of hundreds of visitors was finally disbanded. The temperature quickly cooled back as visitors began to leave the Dōtonbori Canal. I started going from that place towards Namba Station.

A few minutes later, Osaka Metro took me back to Dobutsuen-mae Station. I was very lucky that my Enjoy Eco Card (One Day Pass) was still valid even though it had passed the expiration date, which was 00:00 am. Maybe this would be a bonus from Osaka Metro for New Year celebration.

Until Dobutsuen-mae Station, then I left it at a brisk pace. Saka-suji Avenue was deserted, even my steps was marked by an incident of a drunk driver who stopped his car in the middle of road until several people tried to push him to side. At an intersection I turned along with hearing  a greeting“Helloooo….Happyyyy Newwww Yearrrr, Sirrrr”, a man was riding a bicycle with his right hand holding a bottle of alcoholic drink.

“Happy New Year, sir”, I replied to show friendliness.

Until finally my steps arrived at Hotel Kaga. I felt relieved that I came in hotel safely without less anything. The receptionist was still faithful to his duties, waiting for his desk with discipline.

“Are you happy, Sir?….Good luck for you in the new year”, he smiled at me.

“Sure, Sir…I hope so for you”, I replied. “It’s time to sleep”.

“Yeah….Heve a good sleep, Sir”

I left him for the lift, it took me to third floor. I unsteadily stepped into room. Entering the room, taking off my boots, pulling up the folding bed, and without taking a shower, I immediately threw myself down and quickly fell asleep.

Meanwhile, the bottle of alcoholic drink which had been swallowed by accident two days ago was gracefully standing on a small table in my room. Yess, I didn’t touch it on New Year’s Eve. That means, the alcoholic beverage bottle adventure ended early that morning. Because by noon I would leave Osaka and heading to Busan.

South Korea, I was coming!

Dōtonbori Canal: Hitung Mundur Tahun Baru yang Gagal

<—-Kisah Sebelumnya

Hi Sir, have fun and enjoy the New Year’s Eve”, resepsionis ramah berkacamata itu berhasil menebak niatku ketika hendak meninggalkan lobby Hotel Kaga.

Hi, you know that….Hahaha….You too, Sir. See you”, aku berseloroh ringan.

See you, Sir”, resepsionis itu masih saja melempar senyum.

Aku mulai melangkah di jalanan dengan suhu sekitar mendekati nol derajat Celcius. Muka terasa beku demi mengikuti ayunan langkah menuju Stasiun Dobutsuen-mae. Untuk ketiga kalinya aku melewati Saka-suji Avenue.

Malam ini akan banyak orang mabuk di jalanan”, batinku mengingatkan logika untuk terus berhati-hati walaupun Jepang tergolong negara yang aman.

Enjoy Eco Cardku masih ampuh hingga malam itu untuk menelusuri lorong-lorong bawah tanah Kota Osaka. Kini aku sudah melaju bersama gerbong Osaka Metro Midosuji Line menuju Stasiun Namba. Aku sengaja menaruh Dōtonbori Canal sebagai destinasi terakhirku di Kota Osaka dan aku dengan cerdik menempatkannya di saat perayaan malam tahun baru.

Pasti disana bakal meriah”, batinku girang.

Gerbong kereta yang kunaiki tampak penuh. Sebagian diantaranya bukanlah wajah-wajah Jepang. Pasti mereka adalah para pelancong yang berniat sama denganku, menikmati malam pergantian tahun. Perjalananku menuju Stasiun Namba berlangsung sangat cepat karena dari Stasiun Dobutsuen-mae tak berselang satu stasiun pun menujunya. Aku tiba dalam sepuluh menit.

Keluar dari gerbang Stasiun Namba, aku berjalan kaki menelusuri Mido-suji Avenue. Terus mengarah ke utara. Perkiraanku hanya butuh waktu sepuluh menit untuk mencapai Dōtonbori Canal. Tetapi sudah dua puluh menit aku tak kunjung sampai.

Wah….Pasti aku nyasar”, mukaku mulai kecut.

Aku memberanikan diri bertanya kepada seorang polisi lalu lintas yang tampak sedang berjaga di salah satu sisi trotoar.

Sir, do you know where is this place?”, aku membuka gawai dan menunjukkan sebuah papan neon Glico bergambar lelaki berlari yang terkenal itu.

Dia tersenyum ramah dan mengangguk-angguk sambil berseloroh bersemangat “Oh…Thele….Thele”.

Thank you very much, Sir”, aku melambaikan tangan sembari melangkah meninggalkannya.

You ale welcome”, polisi itu kembali memperhatikan sekitar.

Sepuluh menit menelusuri balik jalur yang telah kutempuh tadi, aku melihat beberapa rombongan turis Eropa menuju ke salah satu arah. Aku yakin itulah tempat yang kutuju. Aku mengekor rombongan turis itu. Benar adanya, mereka juga menuju Dōtonbori Canal.

Aku di Dōtonbori Canal.
Papan neon Glico bergambar lelaki berlari.
Tengara terkenal di Osaka.

Dōtonbori Canal pukul sepuluh malam telah meriah. Badan kanal dipenuhi para turis, sementara restoran dan bar tampak penuh. Turis berduit tentu lebih memilih menunggu malam pergantian tahun dari restoran dan bar yang menawarkan udara hangat. Tetapi aku memutuskan menunggunya di tepian kanal, berkeliling kesana kemari, berusaha menikmati suasana walaupun terdistraksi dengan udara beku Osaka.

Satu jam berlalu ketika aku menyusuri setiap sisi di tepian kanal, kemudian aku berdiri mengambil tempat di bawah jembatan, bermaksud menemukan udara hangat . Tapi percuma, udara sudah turun di bawah nol derajat Celcius. Ketika aku tak sanggup menghadapi udara beku itu, aku bergegas menuju ke kedai penjual Takoyaki. Aku sengaja mengantri , menunggu pesanan, dan memakannya berlama-lama di depan kedai itu untuk mendapatkan paparan hawa hangat yang tersembur dari tungku kedai.

Nempel-nempel kompor mencari kehangatan.

Hampir setengah jam aku memanfaatkan situasi itu untuk memanipulasi suhu dingin. Hingga akhirnya aku mengusir diri karena antrian pembeli mulai ramai. Aku kembali ke kanal setengah jam sebelum hitung mundur tahun baru.

Ketika berjibaku kembali melawan dingin pada sebuah sisi kanal, aku mendengar sayup bahasa dan logat yang sangat kukenal.

Ngenteni kene wae cah, ra sah adoh adoh”, seloroh itu samar terdengar.

Aku menoleh ke belakang, empat pria dan dua diantaranya berambut gondrong sedang duduk di sisi kanal, memegang sebotol besar minuman beralkohol. Itu memang cara efektif melawan dingin. Aku jadi teringat dengan minuman beralkohol yang kumiliki karena salah beli di Narita International Airpot sehari lalu. Tapi aku belum menyerah, aku tak akan menenggaknya.

Aku terus menahan dingin yang semakin menjadi. Kedua tanganku mulai kebas. Tapi aku berusaha tetap tenang. Hingga akhirnya lima menit sebelum countdown tiba. Para turis mulai tumpah ruah ke sepanjang sisi kanal, restoran dan bar ditinggalkan. Semua berharap akan ada pertunjukan kembang api yang elegan. Hingga saatnya tiba, hitungan itu benar-benar dimulai.

Tennnn….Nineeee….Eightttt….”, hitungan semakin kencang

Threeee…..Twoooo….Oneeee…..Happyyyy Newwww Yeearrrr”, tapi semua sontak terdiam dalam tiga detik.

Suasana Dotonbori Canal tetap lengang, tak ada yang istimewa. Hingga lima belas menit kemudian tetap sama, lengang.

Ah, gagal total”, aku mulai kesal.

Turis lain pun mulai mengeluh.  Tak akan ada pertunjukan kembang api. Hingga akhirnya sepuluh pemuda Jepang berinisiatif mengakuisisi suasana dengan menaiki pagar jembatan. Mereka melepas pakaian dan menyisakan celana dalam dalam kondisi suhu yang sangat dingin.  Kemudian salah satu mereka mulai berteriak.

Threeee….Twoooo….Oneeee”, sambil melompat meliuk bak atlet lompat indah dengan kepala menghujam ke air terlebih dahulu.

Byurrrr….

Kemudian tingkah yang sama mulai dilakukan oleh temannya yang sudah bersiap dan berdiri di atas pagar jembatan. Berhitung dalam tiga hitungan mundur, meluncurlah dia ke dalam air. Dan pertunjukan itu terhenti hingga orang ke sepuluh. Setidaknya apa yang mereka lakukan bisa mengobati rasa kecewa seluruh pengunjung Dōtonbori Canal.

Pertunjukan loncat indah telah usai.

Menjelang pukul satu dini hari. Udara yang awalnya terasa lebih hangat karena kerumunan ratusan pengunjung akhirnya lindap. Suhu mendingin kembali dengan cepat karena para pengunjung mulai meninggalkan Dōtonbori Canal. Aku mulai pergi dari tempat itu menuju Stasiun Namba.

Beberapa menit kemudian, Osaka Metro mengantarkanku kembali ke Stasiun Dobutsuen-mae. Beruntung sekali Enjoy Eco Cardku (One Day Pass) masih berlaku walau sudah melewati batas masa pakai yaitu pukul 00:00. Mungkin ini menjadi bonus dari Osaka Metro untuk perayaan tahun baru.

Sampai Stasiun Dobutsuen-mae, lalu aku meninggalkannya dengan langkah cepat. Saka-suji Avenue sudah lengang, bahkan perjalananku diwarnai dengan insiden pengemudi mabuk yang menghentikan mobilnya di tengah jalanan hingga beberapa orang berusaha mendorongnya ke tepian. Di sebuah persimpangan aku berbelok bersamaan dengan selorohan “Helloooo….Happyyyy Newwww Yearrrr, Sirrrr”, orang itu mengendarai sepeda dengan tangan kanan menggenggam sebotol minuman beralkohol.

Happy New Year, Sir”, aku membalasnya untuk menunjukkan keramahan.

Hingga akhirnya langkahku tiba di Hotel Kaga. Aku merasa lega karena aku pulang dengan selamat tanpa kurang satu apapun. Resepsionis itu masih saja setia dengan tugasnya, menunggui mejanya dengan disiplin.

Are you happy, Sir?….Good luck for you in the new year”, dia tersenyum menyambutku.

Sure, Sir…I hope so for you”, aku membalasnya. “It’s time to sleep”.

Yeaa….Heve a good sleep, Sir

Aku meninggalkannya menuju ke lift, lift itu mengantarkanku hingga ke lantai tiga. Aku gontai melangkah menuju kamar. Memasuki kamar, melepas sepatu boots, menarik kasur lipat, dan tanpa mandi, aku langsung menghempaskan badan dan dengan cepat aku terlelap.

Sementara botol minuman beralkohol yang telah tertenggak satu teguk secara tak sengaja dua hari lalu itu berdiri anggun di meja kecil kamar. Yess, aku tak menyentuhnya saat malam tahun baru. Artinya, petualangan botol minuman beralkohol itu tamat dini hari itu. Karena menjelang siang nanti aku akan pergi meninggalkan Osaka dan menuju Busan.

Korea Selatan, Aku datang!